As water goes, Colorado is already in Water Year 2022.
As the Colorado’s 2022 water forecast indicates, it appears there is more dry weather ahead, which does not bode well for Colorado’s water resources. Close to one third of the U.S. depends upon Colorado River Basin snowpack and water resources for drinking water and hydro-electric power, and that’s not even counting the water needs of Colorado’s agricultural and recreational industries.
Weather forecasters are now predicting that another La Niña is likely to materialize, but barely. This means it is likely to deliver less moisture to the state than last year. According to a recent story in Fresh Water News, this means that just as occurred last year, the moisture we do get will simply sublimate, or soak into our ultra-dry soils, leaving little to run into our creeks and rivers. This is particularly worrying to water forecasters, as the west enters its 20th year of regional drought.
Water planners are worried. They use something known as the “water year” to track and predict snow and rain, as well as winds and soil conditions. The current water year began Oct. 1; the fourth quarter time frame. This leads into the period of critical mountain snows and the spring runoff they generate, and estimations of what it will yield help farmers, cities, and others determine how much water they will have to work with.
“The seasonal outlook is not pointing in a favorable direction,” said Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center Specialist Peter Goble. But he reminds Coloradoans that last year’s devastating fires aren’t necessary something to measure against. “We’re a lot better off than we were a year ago. Having blue skies as opposed to smoke is a big improvement, but we are going into water year 2022 on shaky footing.”
A group called the Colorado Water Availability Task Force, is now saying the state is likely to experience another La Niña this coming year. That weather pattern can often bring healthy moisture to the Northern Rockies, but this pattern has also been know to leave the southwestern portion of the state dry. This was our pattern last year, but since it’s year two, water experts say this often means less moisture.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced in a Sept. 22 report that storage levels are continuing to drop in the Colorado River Basin. The Colorado River Basin is made up of seven states, divided between an upper basin and a lower basin. Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico comprise the Upper Basin, while Arizona, California, and Nevada comprise the lower basin.
As AVV reported earlier this year, storage at lakes Powell and Mead is down to a combined 39 percent full. Last year at this time the two storage reservoirs were at a then-record low 49 percent full. Electric turbines generate power for a large swath of the Western U.S at those two reservoirs. Without a snowy winter and spring, hydropower generation at Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam could come to a halt as early as July 2022, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.